Authors: Barbara Delinsky
One minute there was nothing but a cloud…
Several days later, danica sat on the edge…
Danica made the trip to Kennebunkport in…
Blake was with danica the next time she…
Danica chose her time well, waiting for a…
Danica gave Blake the good word shortly…
Danica’s fears lurked strongly in her…
The next few months were difficult ones…
The day after Jason Claveling was inaugurated…
Since she was transporting a word…
Early the next morning Michael raced…
The weekend after danica returned to Boston…
Eleanor recovered slowly but steadily.
“He won’t do it, Michael. I asked him…
“He calls himself Red Robin and we have…
After bidding an affectionate farewell to…
Blake was arraigned the following morning…
Two days later the trial began. Michael…
Blake Lindsay served as secretary of commerce…
NE MINUTE THERE WAS NOTHING BUT A CLOUD of fog before him; the next she was there, materialized from the mist. Stunned, Michael Buchanan came to an abrupt halt. He hadn’t expected to encounter anyone on the beach at such an inhospitable time of year, much less as striking a figure as the one before him.
She was a vision of loneliness standing there, with the March wind tucking her long skirt around her legs, whipping strands of hair across her cheeks. As he watched, she pressed her pocketed hands closer to her body, enveloping herself more snugly within the oversized jacket she wore.
He took several steps forward and, still unnoticed, stared. She was lovely. Smooth of skin and with a delicately sculpted profile, she was young enough, old enough, just right. And she was slender. Even the protective folds of her clothing, whose mist-softened hues of hunter green and plum contrasted smartly with her fair skin and the sandy hair that escaped the confines of her stylish wool cloche, couldn’t hide that fact.
In her solitariness she was regal; at least that was what he fantasized as he stood, spellbound, studying her. She bore the weight of the world on her shoulders, while at the same time she remained apart, isolated from the masses. Even the fog kept its distance, as though in awe.
Regal…stoic…brave…each thought came to him through the mist, then another. Vulnerable. Body braced against the cold, she shivered from time to time, but she didn’t move either to seek warmth or to escape the threat of the pounding surf. She’d fallen victim to the sea, he knew, and he felt an even greater affinity for her. He wondered who she was, this woman who stood alone, tall yet humbled, seeking strength from within. Bidden by a curiosity that went beyond the purely male, he tugged his collar higher and started slowly forward.
Eyes downcast, she didn’t see him at first. He paused, hesitant to intrude on whatever thoughts possessed her, but moved on again when his own need nagged. When he came to a halt several feet from her, her head snapped up. With a quick step back, she pressed a hand to her heart.
“You startled me!” Her voice was little more than a ragged whisper above the thunder of the tide.
Michael drew in a sharp breath when he found himself looking into the most stunning violet eyes he had ever seen. It took him a minute to find his tongue.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you. It’s just that you looked so alone.”
For an instant he thought she was going to cry. Her eyes widened and tears gathered on her lower lids. He saw it then, the haunted cast that fear had momentarily overshadowed, and he wondered what dark thoughts had upset her so. Then they were gone—the torment, the tears—replaced by a composure that suggested he had simply imagined the cracks.
“My fault,” she said in a voice whose tremor might well have been caused by wind. “I was miles away.” She gave him a sheepish half-smile by way of apology, and he felt something new and special curl up and glow inside him.
“I hope it was somewhere exotic.”
“Exotic? No. Not exactly.”
“Exciting, at least?”
She searched his face, then shook her head quickly, almost as if in guilt at her admission.
“Your secret’s safe with me,” he teased on a note of conspiracy that ended in a smile, “as long as you’re back here now.”
“I am.” Her whisper was carried away by the wind, but she continued to stare at him. When she finally spoke again, she sounded confused. “I’m not even sure what happened. One minute I was here, and then…”
“The ocean has a way of doing that. Of transporting you from one place to another.” Tucking his hands in his pockets, he tore his eyes from hers and gazed toward the waves. “It’s very sneaky, actually. First you’re lured by the sense of freedom of the open beach and the fresh salt air. Before long—you barely know it’s happened—your pulse has adjusted to the rhythm of the surf.” He looked down at her and was so taken with her rapt expression that his voice thickened. “Some people call it hypnotic, like staring into a flickering fire.” He cleared his throat. “I think it’s something more. In no time you’re caught, laid open, exposed. Nature here is raw and utterly truthful and commands no less from those of us who dare intrude.” His voice lowered as he studied the delicate features before him. “Falling victim to the sea means baring one’s soul. It can be painful.”
For a minute they simply looked at one another. “I’d never thought of it that way,” she said at last.
“Neither had I, until it had happened too many times to ignore.”
“You’ve felt the pain?” she asked in a small, surprised voice.
“Many times. Shouldn’t I?”
“I don’t know. You look so strong.”
Dropping his head back, he took a deep breath. “I like to think I am, but that doesn’t mean I never suffer. I think strength comes from facing pain, from dealing with it. It’s either that or crumble. Pain is part and parcel of being human.”
Her expression grew all the more solemn, her voice soft in a wistful way. “I sometimes wonder. It seems…it seems…” When her gaze flicked to his then darted away, he coaxed her gently.
She hesitated for a moment longer, and there was a note of despair in her voice when she spoke. “It seems that some people are immune to it.”
“Immune to pain? No,” he mused, “I doubt that. There are those who choose to deny it. They’re the ones who’d never be caught dead alone with themselves in a room, much less on a deserted expanse of beach.” He winked. “It takes a pretty brave person to expose himself this way.”
She gave a lopsided smile. “Either that or a dumb one.” Then she eyed him cautiously. “Tell me. After this…this baring of the soul takes place, what happens?”
“You go home and cry.”
“I’m serious. Does the sea provide answers?”
“Sometimes. Once I stood here in my agony and this little bottle floated ashore with a message inside—” He was interrupted by the audible breath she took. When she simply held it without speaking, though, he prodded. “What’s wrong?”
She exhaled slowly. “Your name. I want to scold, but I don’t know your name.” Then she murmured more to herself than to him, “Isn’t that odd?”
Michael understood. There was a warm familiarity about this woman. If he believed in reincarnation, he might have suspected he had known her in another life. Grateful, if that had indeed been the case, that he’d been given a second chance, he held out his hand. “Michael Buchanan.” Without breaking eye contact, he tossed his head back in the direction from which he’d come. “I live down the beach.” He raised a brow. “And you?”
She hesitated for just a minute before carefully putting her hand in his. “Danica. Danica Lindsay.” As he’d done, she flicked her head, but in the opposite direction. “That’s my house.”
Instinctively he raised his free hand to seal hers between his palms. When her downward glance drew his attention to the move, he was as surprised as she.
“Your fingers are cold,” he explained. Though his answer had been an impromptu one, it was apt. He rubbed her hand between his, back and forth, stimulating her circulation and his own. Her fingers were slender, pliant, fitting.
She actually blushed. “I didn’t expect it’d still be winter here. It’s much milder at home.”
“Ah, Boston,” he drawled, “the birthplace of liberty.”
“So they say.”
“You don’t sound convinced.”
She merely shrugged and looked out at the water as she slid her hand from his grasp and tucked it back into her pocket. He’d been right about the ocean, she decided. It had seen through her facade, making her look at things she would rather have ignored. And, yes, he had been right about something else; some people simply refused to acknowledge the presence of pain, which was why she was here, alone, today. Was she free? Only in the most literal of senses.
“Liberty is relative, I suppose,” she commented. But before Michael had a chance to pursue the matter, she tipped up her chin and put on a pert smile. “So. You’re a neighbor. Mrs. Sylvester warned me there were some pretty important people up here.”
She studied the man before her. He wore a sheep-skin jacket, well-worn cords and hiking boots whose laces were undone. He was tall—she guessed him to be a good six-three to her own respectable five-eight—and sported the faint shadow of a beard, which might have given him a roguish look had it not been for the extreme gentleness of his features. Then, too, there was the healthy rumple of his hair, which was a shade of blond not unlike her own. Dirty blond, they always called it, which had never failed to annoy her as a child, since she washed her hair every night.